Oswego adapts to growing opioid crisis

Apr 6, 2017

As people continue to die from heroin and opioid addiction in central and northern New York, communities like Oswego County are offering new treatment programs to combat the crisis. 

Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes, who also serves as the county coroner, says at least 22 people died from a heroin or opioid overdose in the county last year. He says that is compelling local leaders to search for new solutions.

"That's at least 22 of friends, neighbors, children, parents from this community that we have lost," Oakes said. "This is not just a public safety issue, but it is very much a public health issue."

Oakes is part of a new program with the Oswego Police Department and Farnham Family Services, a local therapy-based treatment clinic, that allows those suffering from drug addiction to turn themselves and their drugs in to city police. Under the Rapid Evaluation for Appropriate Placement (REAP) initiative, addicts won't be arrested as long as they complete a treatment evaluation with Farnham within five days.  

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow says REAP is about assisting those who may not know how to start their recovery.

"This program is directed toward people who have made the decision to get help and they may not know how to get help," Barlow said.

Farnham is also opening a medication-assisted treatment program this August, the first in Oswego County. Executive Director Eric Bresee says it can help wean addicts off of dangerous substances under the supervision of physicians. 

"With opiate addiction, one of the major issues is withdrawal," Bresee said. "When you go into withdrawal, it’s very painful. Consider the worst flu you’ve ever had and times that by ten and imagine having to deal with that. Medications like methadone can help folks not become sick and start to focus on their recovery and get at the underlying roots of their addiction."

Methadone treatment programs, which sometimes see higher rates of recovery, is in such high demand that new clinics have recently opened in Watertown and Syracuse. As a result, Monika Taylor with Syracuse Crouse Hospital says they have seen a corresponding drop in the wait list for their methadone treatment program, which at one point was the only available option in the region.